Nicolas Roche's hopes of a top-10 finish at the Criterium Dauphine were wiped out yesterday when he crashed heavily with around 18km remaining on stage five to Les Gets.
Roche hit the deck along with Quickstep rider Ludovic Cappelle and sat slumped sideways against a concrete road bollard with visible cuts on his arm and right thigh.
After consultation with the race doctor, team director Vincent Lavenu lifted a seemingly disorientated Roche on to his bike and the Dubliner rode the remainder of the stage, losing 25 minutes on the final climb to Les Gets. Roche was taken to hospital for checks afterwards and may not start today's penultimate stage. His team-mate Blel Kadri had already withdrawn with a knee injury.
"It's very disappointing for the two guys after all the hard work they put in for this Dauphine," said Lavenu. "It's also disappointing for the team to lose two of their main riders to crashes. We were counting on Nicolas for a top-five or 10 place overall and Blel would have been up there too today."
Yesterday's stage was won by Christophe Kern, whose Europcar team drove the peloton on to the final climb before splitting the group with an attack by team-mate Thomas Voeckler in the final five kilometres. Kern went solo with three kilometres to go and, despite strong counter-attacks behind, the Frenchman held on to take victory by seven seconds, with Roche's cousin Daniel Martin having to settle for eighth place on the stage.
Bradley Wiggins held onto his yellow jersey for another day after some strong riding by his Team Sky squad kept him in contention all the way to the summit finish yesterday.
"My team was amazing to keep all the attacks under control," said Wiggins. "I was never worried. This was the first of three tough days. It won't be as complicated tomorrow or Sunday: I'll just race flat out to defend the yellow jersey."
Today's penultimate stage features six major climbs including the summit finish at the Hors Categorie Le Collet D'Allevard on it's 192km leg from Les Gets.